Plenty of people argue that tipping is an antiquated system that needs to be replaced. But at the same time, tipping is so ingrained in some business models that companies struggle to find suitable alternatives and customers don’t know how to adapt. Yes, we’ve seen some successful Danny Meyer experiments, but we’ve also seen some Joe’s Crab Shack flops.
Instacart is the latest brand to find itself at the center of a no-tipping backlash. Last month, the online grocery delivery service that sends hired shoppers to do customers’ shopping for them announced it would be replacing its “tip” line with a “service amount” line. Users could still choose a service charge as a percentage of their bill, even putting 0 percent if they wanted, but unlike a tip, which goes directly to whoever did the work, these new “service amounts” would be pooled and split evenly between all of the company’s contractors (aka shoppers and drivers). The idea, Instacart argued according to Consumerist, was to give workers “more consistent pay with fewer variables.”
However, last week, Instacart decided to backtrack on these plans somewhat. The company will still be adding a service amount line, but it will not replace the tip line. Users will have the option to tip as well. In a posting on its website, Instacart claims the change of heart happened after it “heard from shoppers that they liked most of the changes but wanted to retain the ability for customers to tip online.” The new system, which rolls out in Washington DC and San Francisco today and the rest of Instacart’s markets next Monday, means “customers will now see a service amount at checkout” that is “used to guarantee a high commission for all shoppers to help smooth out variations in pay,” but customers “will retain their ability to tip at their discretion for exceptional service,” with that money going “directly to the shopper delivering the order.”
But even this sort of “have your cake and eat it too” compromise is causing a bit of controversy. “Many people will wonder, what is a service amount if not a tip?” one Instacart shopper (AKA employee) told Consumerist. “Am I supposed to tip twice? Is the service worth using with all these extra charges?” Mind you, these are people who are too busy to do their own grocery shopping: Do they really have time to think about two service lines?
Apparently, tipping is still one of those issues where you still can’t make everyone happy.